The Naked Mountain

The Summit
By Reinhold Messner
The Naked Mountain
The summit of Nanga (Photo courtesy Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation)

In 1970, Reinhold Messner and his brother, Günther, made a grueling summit of Pakistan's 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth-highest mountain. What followed next, though, is the subject of bitter controversy, with Günther dying on the mountain—his body still to be recovered—and other members of the expedition team claiming Messner abandoned his brother somewhere on the peak in pursuit of his own glory. The Naked Mountain, a new memoir by Messner, is an attempt to set the record straight; here, in an exclusive excerpt, the 59-year-old mountaineering legend remembers both the triumph and the tragedy of that day in June 1970.

Suddenly I found myself standing on a dome of firm show—the summit of Nanga Parbat. I had a quick look around but it was nothing like the fairy-tale world I had imagined. I was exhausted and there was not much to see. I stood there and did not really understand why. The realization dawned in slow motion: this was it, a moment of suspended animation to mark the end of our slow progress.

Günther sat further down and took photographs. Then he followed me up, step by step, and joined me on the top. He took his mittens off and extended a hand towards me. Two cold hands clasped in a brief embrace. Because we were there together there was a feeling of satisfaction, a kind of happiness, despite the tiredness and lethargy.

The summit of Nanga
The fact that Günther was there with me makes that hour on the summit so valuable to me, even now. The memory of it is still good, despite the run of the mill daily routines of the intervening years. I can still see his eyes, as clearly as I could then. We had both taken off our snow goggles—I have no idea why. At the time, neither of us thought about snow blindness.

Since we had never been on the top of an 8000m mountain before we did what we had done a thousand times before when topping out on a climb: we shook hands, rested and looked at the view. I was surprised when Günther clapped me on the shoulder. Maybe I should have said something, but at that moment I did not know what to say.

We took some photographs of each other and had a good look around. We now needed to make our descent. We had maybe an hour of daylight left. It was late, maybe too late.

Published: 12 Dec 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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